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Trump's impeachment lesson: Democrats are 'crooked'

President Donald Trump said the lesson he learned from his impeachment trial is that "Democrats are crooked" and "vicious."

Posted: Feb 13, 2020 3:30 AM
Updated: Feb 13, 2020 3:30 AM

If some Republican senators emerged from President Donald Trump's impeachment acquittal optimistic he'd learned important lessons of presidential behavior, he was happy on Wednesday to offer a different takeaway.

"The Democrats are crooked," he said when questioned in the Oval Office about what he learned from the impeachment ordeal, which concluded one week ago. "They got a lot of crooked things going. That they're vicious. That they shouldn't have brought impeachment."

It was a conclusive answer to a question that seemed less and less of a question in the days since Trump's impeachment trial gaveled out with a "not guilty" verdict.

Since then, the President has waged a brazen tour of retribution toward officials he sees as enemies. He's cast aside conventions separating politics from the rule of law. And he's basking in the uncertainty of the Democratic race to replace him.

Even as some of his aides scramble to explain away his behavior as routine, Trump himself is taking no pains to disguise his intentions. After administration officials downplayed the decision to ease sentencing recommendations for onetime campaign associate Roger Stone as standard procedure, Trump made clear the intervention was more narrow.

"I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing," he said in the Oval Office as his Ecuadorian counterpart looked on. "They saw the horribleness of a nine year sentence for doing nothing."

Stone's crimes, in the eyes of the federal jury who convicted him of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress, were not nothing. But for Trump, the facts of the case seemed ancillary to the effect the episode had on Stone and his family.

"We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens," he said. "And then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children. Nine years in jail -- it's a disgrace."

Trump declined to say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone -- "I don't want to say that yet"-- but the message was clear: the once-typical wall between White House political motives and Justice Department decision-making has fallen.

Trump himself has long erased the traditional line that's existed between a president's official duties and his political ones. Events billed as "official" engagements often turn to attacks of Democratic rivals. On Wednesday, a stack of red "Keep America Great" hats produced by Trump's campaign sat within arm's reach on a side table in the Oval Office.

But the longstanding practice of avoiding interference in politically charged Justice Department investigations had at least been applied in theory -- if not practice. Now, Trump is openly flaunting his willingness to intervene.

Earlier in the day, Trump congratulated Attorney General Bill Barr in a tweet for "taking charge" of the Stone case and railed against what he described as the "Mueller Scam."

And while Trump continued to insist on Wednesday that he hadn't spoken directly to Barr or other Justice Department officials about the situation, he has said he would have the "absolute right" to do it if he wanted.

It's not exactly what moderate Republican senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins pictured when they voted against convicting Trump on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Their hope then was that Trump, stained by impeachment and chastened by accusations he misused his presidential authority, would operate in more traditional fashion going forward.

Instead, the opposite has seemed to occur. Trump has overseen the dismissal of two key witnesses from the impeachment trial, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU. He's itching to fire other officials he deems disloyal, and abruptly withdrew a Treasury Department nomination for Jessie Liu, the former US attorney who headed the office that oversaw Stone's prosecution.

And after the Justice Department disavowed the government's sentencing recommendations for Stone, all four federal prosecutors working on the case resigned.

"I don't like this chain of events," Collins said on Wednesday. "The President weighs in, all of a sudden, Justice comes back and says, 'Change the deal.' I think most people in America would look at that and say, 'Hmm, that just doesn't look right.' And I think they're right."

Murkowski, asked whether Trump had taken any lessons from the impeachment saga, said that "there haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has."

Trump paid little mind to those sentiments as he took questions, sometimes angrily, in the Oval Office on Wednesday, where he was ostensibly meeting with President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador. It's the first time in nearly 20 years a president of Ecuador has visited the White House.

As Moreno looked on from his wheelchair (he was wounded during a 1998 robbery attempt and has used a wheelchair since), Trump cast himself as the victim of politically motivated takedown attempts and seemed intent on finding retribution.

"Where is (James) Comey? What's happening to (Andrew) McCabe? What's happening to Lisa and Peter Strzok, what's happening with them? It was a whole setup," Trump said, listing off the now-familiar names he blames for the investigations that have plagued his presidency.

Asked if he was concerned that federal prosecutors were resigning or withdrawing from cases on his watch, Trump said: "I'm not concerned about anything. They ought to go back to school and learn."

He seemed more pleased with a question from an Ecuadorean reporter, who praised US economic growth before asking about signs of weakness in Latin American economies.

"I love that question," Trump said, "I wish we had people like that here."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 90017

Reported Deaths: 2017
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25857922
Ramsey10492318
Dakota7125125
Anoka5753132
Stearns377023
Washington357355
Scott242633
Olmsted228727
Nobles193116
Blue Earth15986
Wright15337
St. Louis135234
Carver13517
Rice13018
Mower12864
Clay126140
Sherburne109314
Kandiyohi9312
Winona85018
Lyon6464
Waseca5328
Steele5212
Freeborn5163
Benton5113
Watonwan5054
Nicollet49916
Todd4792
McLeod4462
Chisago4441
Le Sueur4444
Crow Wing43318
Otter Tail3924
Beltrami3764
Goodhue3309
Martin3199
Pine2810
Itasca27713
Polk2734
Isanti2580
Douglas2491
Becker2442
Carlton2391
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone2129
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Morrison2031
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Chippewa1921
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Meeker1772
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Brown1732
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Murray1542
Rock1520
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Redwood1400
Jackson1331
Faribault1320
Renville1286
Cass1253
Roseau1160
Swift1141
Pennington1121
Houston1100
Fillmore1080
Kanabec1058
Koochiching1053
Lincoln1020
Stevens931
Pope880
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Aitkin711
Big Stone680
Wadena650
Grant584
Wilkin553
Lake530
Norman510
Marshall491
Lac qui Parle460
Mahnomen451
Red Lake390
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 80106

Reported Deaths: 1256
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15318256
Johnson499527
Woodbury498961
Black Hawk434986
Linn3783106
Story328617
Dubuque279840
Scott279727
Dallas269038
Pottawattamie200037
Buena Vista194712
Marshall176134
Sioux13503
Wapello126757
Webster119314
Clinton107018
Muscatine106452
Plymouth105220
Crawford10014
Cerro Gordo99621
Warren9286
Jasper76632
Des Moines7417
Marion7154
Tama69031
Carroll6345
Henry6074
Lee5967
Wright5621
Dickinson4856
Boone4677
Bremer4627
Washington43111
Louisa42515
Mahaska34019
Franklin33617
Delaware3353
Hamilton3143
Jackson3003
Floyd2983
Winneshiek2985
Clay2923
Benton2861
Hardin2761
Winnebago27111
Butler2592
Clarke2553
Emmet25210
Poweshiek2498
Lyon2483
Allamakee2455
Jones2443
Buchanan2421
Shelby2421
Clayton2323
Guthrie2235
Cedar2211
Chickasaw2210
Kossuth2190
Sac2140
Grundy2052
Madison2052
Cherokee1942
Fayette1911
Iowa1851
Mitchell1830
Howard1825
Harrison1782
Humboldt1733
Hancock1722
Calhoun1702
Mills1681
Palo Alto1600
Pocahontas1522
Monroe14810
Lucas1426
Page1420
Monona1381
Jefferson1341
Cass1332
Osceola1260
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Taylor1231
Union1223
Davis1144
Van Buren1101
Worth1020
Ida970
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